B.C. health officials reported 1,785 new cases and 16 deaths from COVID-19 since their last update on Friday.
The number of confirmed cases in B.C. climbs to 92,571 while the province’s death toll now stands at 1,437.
Of the new cases, 469 were recorded in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,010 were in Fraser Health, 89 in Island Health, 84 in Interior Health, and 133 in Northern Health.
There are currently 5,290 active cases in the province, 303 people in hospital — 80 of whom are in intensive care — and 9,330 people under active public health monitoring due to possible exposure to an identified case.
Over the past three days, 166 cases retrospectively identified as a variant of concern, bringing the total number of variant cases recorded in B.C. to 1,366.
This includes 1,240 cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant, 85 cases of the P.1 (Brazil) variant, and 41 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant.
Meanwhile, there are currently 237 active variant cases in B.C.
Five COVID-19 deaths in B.C. were people who were infected with the U.K. variant, according to data provided to CHEK News by the Ministry of Health last week.
On a positive note, a total of 89,746 people in B.C. have recovered from COVID-19 while 538,409 doses of vaccine have been administered.
During Monday’s update, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said she is concerned about not just the rise in daily infections, but the rise in hospitalizations among younger individuals.
“We are starting to see younger people who are being affected, end up in hospital and needing hosptial and ICU care and that is concerning,” she said.
While more than 500,000 doses of vaccine have been administered in B.C. so far, Henry said the province still doesn’t have enough and that the risk of infection remains high.
“We do not yet have enough protection to keep us all safe,” she said.
“We know now, it is so so challenging, at this point, after going through the last year of this pandemic and being at that place where we want to be so much with our family and friends,” she said. “We know people are gathering together in indoor spaces.”
According to the latest information posted on the BCCDC‘s dashboard, 30 new cases of the virus identified on Vancouver Island in the past 24 hours.
There are currently 278 active cases on Vancouver Island, a decrease of six since Monday.
Thirteen people are in hospital, three of whom are in critical care.
A total of 744 tests for COVID-19 performed in the region over the past 24 hours.
There have been 2,956 cases, 28 deaths and 2,645 recoveries in the Island Health region since the pandemic began.
Meanwhile, Island Health reported 235 active cases on Vancouver Island in its latest dashboard update.
Of those active cases, 102 are in the South Island, 110 are in Central Island, and 23 are in the North Island.
Island Health’s data often lags behind the BCCDC’s data due to a “difference in timing of reporting across laboratory and public health data sources.”
Indoor gatherings remain risky
B.C.’s top doctor expressed concerns about indoor gatherings and the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant during Monday’s briefing.
Dr. Henry said the rise in cases can be linked to people getting exposed in clusters at workplaces and in homes. She said because the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant can spread so much faster in indoor settings, the risk of infection indoors has only increased.
“It is much easier to spread it, with even minimal contact in indoor settings,” said Henry. “The areas where we know it spreads most quickly and most dangerously are the same as they were last year, but now there is even less margin for error.”
“That close contact, when we are inside and we let our guard down and we are talking in close contact with people, where the ventilation isn’t as good, those are the times where this virus can spread even more quickly,” she added.
Adrian Dix, the province’s minister of health, said indoor gathering continues to be a “major problem” in British Columbia and pleaded with people to not go to parties or celebrations.
“With these case numbers, we have to recognize the necessity of that right now,” he said.
However, there appeared to be some hope offered. Henry said while right now is not the time for people to be gathering together in small groups indoors, that time will come soon.
“This is not the time to be getting together, even with a small group of friends. This is not the time to have that wedding, put it off, put it off till the summer and we will be in a different place, a post-pandemic place,” she said. “We will still be dealing with COVID, but we will be out of the really challenging place that we are right now.”
The province is continuing to roll out its mass immunization plan, this week targeting seniors between 75-79 years old and Indigenous people over 65.
Call in dates are as follows for the age-based cohort:
- age 78 – Monday, March 22 at noon
- age 77 – Tuesday, March 23 at noon
- age 76 – Thursday, March 25 at noon
- age 75 – Saturday, March 27 at noon
In the Island Health region, those eligible can call 1-833-348-4787 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily. Details on the next age-based cohort of 70-74 are expected to be released this week.
With only about five per cent of Canadians being vaccinated so far, it may be a race between variants and the province’s immunization plan, said Dr. Sally Otto, professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia. She said B.1.1.7 transmits up to 100 per cent faster than the original.
“We’re seeing doubling every week of this variant,” said Otto. “I very much expect a spike in cases in the next few weeks and increased restrictions at that point.”
Recently, B.C. announced relaxed restrictions on gatherings, allowing for people to gather outdoors in groups of up to 10 people. Henry and Dix have said depending on numbers and how fast the province can administer vaccinations, some restrictions could be eased in summer. It remains to be seen whether Friday’s relatively high case count will affect that.
Last week, the government announced those deemed essential workers would move up in line to receive doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, including first responders, teachers and grocery store workers.